Why Boulevard Brewing Co. Is Quite Possibly the Best Company on the Face of the Earth

So it’s been an excruciatingly long time since we’ve updated this, and hopefully with some new developments (that we can’t elaborate on at this juncture, unfortunately) the time between posts will be much shorter.

We had to post now, however, because we had some news to dispense and someone(s) to thank.

First, we welcomed our second Assistant Brewer, Brett David Foster on October 12, 2012. A fiery red head like his dad, Brett came into the world at, 8lbs 6.5 oz and 20 inches. His sister, our first Assistant Brewer, and Assistant to the COO, Abigail, absolutely adores him. The Forest Trail Brewery family is happy, and healthy, but this is news a lot of you already knew. The story that follows is an example of a small business going COMPLETELY out of its way to help welcome a new baby, despite the lack of a real connection between it and the family.

The New Guy

The New Guy

Matt loves beer. That’s quite obvious. But specifically, one of his favorite styles is Saison, the medium bodied, slightly spicy beer made famous in the farmlands of Belgium. Additionally, he loves beers with a funk. A tart, almost sour flavor usually derived from the addition of one of a few different yeast strains, including Brettanomyces (Brett for short). One might connect some dots, and conclude that we named our second child after Matt’s favorite yeast strain. That’s not true. Or at least that’s not entirely true. We like to call it a happy coincidence. It started as a joke…then we decided we liked it! There is a hideous rumor that we were going to name him “Brett Porter” after a beer Matt has in the design stage. Also mostly not true. Truth is, Matt went to college with a courageous young man named Brett, whose personal strength is something that stuck with him through the years (ok, so that’s the back up story!).

Moving forward a month or so after Brett’s birth. Matt was working at Bin Ends Wine on a Friday for their Craft Beer Sessions. This particular night featured Boulevard Brewery and their Saison-Brett. As the night wore on, the distribution company rep congratulated Matt on the birth with a bottle of Saison-Brett (the reps come with stock for the tasting, and at the end of the night, this was one of a few bottles left that hadn’t been cracked). When he returned home and told his wife the story, they noted that the bottle had the year “2012” written on it, and commented on how nice it would be to save that bottle as a commemoration of Brett’s 2012 birth. Then Matt got an idea. Each bottle of Saison-Brett is individually numbered, meaning there could be a Bottle Number 1012 out in the world. Knowing the fairly limited distribution of the beer (MO and the Eastern Seaboard) he thought it might not be out of the question to track that bottle down, using various beer circles. He double-checked the bottle numbers he had in stock at the store, then fashioned an email to Boulevard.

He told Boulevard of his intentions of seeking out the bottle, and how since the bottles were individually numbered, he they might have an idea which case, on which pallet, and to which state the bottle may have gone. Matt was pretty sure the beer world could help him out from there. He expected to get one of two responses. Either they’d say “Yes! That beer went to Delaware!” or, “Sorry, bud. No clue, but congrats!” This is the email he received from Boulevard’s Creative Director, Payton Kelly:

Greetings, Matt-

Thanks so much for your message, and congratulations on the birth of your son Brett!
I have good news and bad news:
Unfortunately, we have no way to find an individual bottle of Saison-Brett. The bottles in that release have long since been scattered to the four winds.

Your appreciation for our beers and your loyalty and hard work should not go unrewarded, however…I have an idea that may serve as a suitable commemorative of Brett’s arrival. I hope you’ll like it. May we have your mailing address?

Cheers!

Payton Kelly
Creative Director, Boulevard Brewing Company
2501 Southwest Boulevard
Kansas City, Missouri 64108
(Personal Information Redacted)

Matt forwarded his mailing address, with no real expectations. However, as the pictures will show, on December 17, 2012, Matt received what has been described (by more than just us) as “one of the coolest things a brewery has ever done for a customer”.

The matted and framed label

Not only did Payton and John McDonald (Founder and President) respond with a copy of the label numbered 1012, they MATTED and FRAMED the label, then signed their work. It’s the most beautiful, amazing bit of customer service/PR we have ever seen, let alone experienced! Not only does Boulevard make some great beer, but they are made up of some amazing people. Kudos, and thanks, guys! This will be hung prominently in Brett’s room. We can’t wait to tell him the story!

Apricots!?!

Bad bloggers again. Sorry. That’s all on Matt, this is his job.

As I sit here and wait for my strike water to get to temperature (woo hoo! Industry vocabulary!) I figure it’s a good idea to catch you up to speed.

First, I’m writing this in the first person from now on, since it’s easier for me, and since most of it is about what I (personally) happen to be doing. So now, when you read “I”, think “Matt”, or “I” if you’ve ever wanted to be me, I won’t judge.

Second, like many family vacations of the past, and many more in the future (I’m sure of it), I managed to turn a fun filled family adventure into a search for alcohol. Disney was great, the FTB Crew had a great time, and I experimented with Aquavit at a Princess Lunch in Epcot’s Norway Pavilion. It was interesting, herbal, with a light anise flavor, and tons of alcohol behind it. I was also able to sample a couple of local IPA’s at Raglan Road, the Irish pub in Downtown Disney, including Jai Alai IPA from Cigar City Brewing in Tampa. One of the best I’ve ever had, so if you see it, and you’re a hop head, don’t think twice!

Today’s brew is FTB’s first official All Grain attempt (I refuse to discuss the real first attempt, it went so poorly, suffice to say I spent some money on equipment, instead of trusting my greatly lacking construction skills). As stated in the last entry, it is a Blonde Ale, light in body, lightly hopped, easy summer drinking. The twist to this beer is the addition of Apricot, to add just a touch of flavor. It’s similar to a version done by Dry Dock Brewing, in Aurora, CO. Chances are no one we know (ourselves included) has sampled their wares, but the beer sounded interesting, so we went for it.

The Chocolate Milk Stout is as good as expected. Lauren enjoyed her “teeniest of tastes”, because, as you may or may not know, we are adding to the FTB Crew sometime in October, and consuming alcohol while pregnant is verboten! The Chocolate Milk Stout has been circulated among a few of the Usual Suspects, as far as beer tasting goes, and has received positive reviews all around. Some will be on hand for sampling the day I head to the Beer Summit with the Thread Podcast.

The Oude Bruin was sampled the day I added the port soaked wood chips, and it is progressing nicely. Tart, smooth, and refreshing. It should finish at around 6% (technically it’s ready to drink NOW, but I’d like it to spend a few more weeks on wood), and will be ready to drink all summer.

FTB’s next brew (maybe next week) will be a redesigned, all grain version of FTB IPA, keg hopped (the beer will be kegged over fresh hops for a bigger aroma) on Cascade hops (think Sierra Nevada Pale ale’s aroma) and should be ready to drink in late April/early May.

And the Days Go By…

So, we’ve been bad bloggers… And Matt has been a bad brewer…

Things that have happened since the last blog update:
1.Ed’s beer died. Brewed an unbelievable Breakfast (oatmeal, chocolate, coffee) Stout in its place, which was a huge hit.
2.Jan’s beer was a huge hit.
3.Brewed a Cranberry Saison that aged better than expected, but wasn’t really up to snuff.
4.Started working as in intern at Blue Hills Brewery (til September), and thus, placed Tuesday Brewday on hold.
5.Brewed the first version of FTB IPA, kegged it, and served it to a Memorial Day gathering at the brewery. It was gone by the end of the day.
6.Served beer at the American Craft Beer Festival for Blue Hills Brewery.
7.Went to LA and Vegas for a Bachelor Party (and returned relatively intact).
8.Became the “Beer Guy” at BinEnds Wine, on Wood Road in Braintree, MA, thus inserting myself deeper into local Beer-dom.
9.Started learning the ins and outs of Tweeting Beer news.
10.And finally, on a return to Tuesday Brewday, brewed both a Belgian Style Dark Strong Ale and a Chocolate Milk Stout. More on those below.

First, Matt’s 9 month stint as an intern at Blue Hills went well. he learned a lot about the commercial production of beer, and learned that it, in essence, isn’t too far different from what we’re doing here, at FTB. He took some time off, after realizing he needed to get back to actually earning money to fund #7 on the list, as well as missing his own beer. The good news is, he made more friends and furthered his connections in the beer world through this, and came to the realization that he can indeed do this job. One of his co-interns has gone on to work at Cambridge Brewing Company as a brewer, and he’s made friends with a number of brewers around Massachusetts as a result of this internship.

On to why you’re all here: The BEER!!

In January, Matt celebrated a return to Tuesday Brewday with his most ambitious project yet. He brewed the back bone for this beer as a Belgian style Dark Strong Ale (think Chimay Blue, with less ABV) that will top out somewhere just shy of 7%. As it reached the end of its fermentation, he spiked it with a mix of Brettanomyces, Saccharomyces, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus. What does this mean? It means Matt has purposely “ruined” the beer, in order to develop a complex stable of flavors from tart  and acidic, to leathery/barnyard flavors, as well as aromas, and a buttery mouthfeel. To further add to the taste bonanza, Matt has been aging toasted oak chips in Ruby Port, to pitch the beer over. That will happen in about two weeks, and the beer will sit until the first week in June (that’s 3 months!!) before being bottled. We have high hopes for this experiment beer, and can’t wait to see the end result. For a similar commercial version (if you can’t wait the three months) we recommend Rodenbach Classic or Duchesse du Bourgogne.

The very next day (Wednesday brewday?!?) Matt again took over the kitchen, for a less ambitious, but as anticipated (if not more so) brew. The background beer is a traditional stout, with added lactose sugar to sweeten it, and make it a milk stout. The beer is about to be transferred onto chocolate nibs for extended aging (about 3 weeks) to create a Chocolate Milk Stout. Lauren is very excited. This beer is scheduled to be ready for bottling some time after February 20th, and will be ready to drink right after the Forest Trail Brewery Crew gets back from Disney World.

Both beers need names, and we’re soliciting suggestions… Winners receive… free beer?

And we promise there’s more beer coming, including the two contract beers from the 2011 church auction (one looks to be a highly hopped British Pale Ale, the other the Second Coming of the 5th Anniversary Ale), as well as FTB’s first attempt at an American Blonde Ale (for all of you Bud fans!). Stay tuned!

Further Updates…

So we apologize. Matt’s been busy (lazy) and he’s the one that usually posts these. Moving on.

The Stout Fest mentioned in the last post has been placed on hold, possibly until November, possibly until next fall. While Matt has stockpiled a large number of stouts from around the country, the FTB options have been pushed back…I blame Canada.  (Don’t worry, the collected stouts will last).

In other news, the 5th Anniversary Ale has been completed, and bottled. No 750 ml bottles, despite the last blog post, will be available. But there are plenty of 12 ounce bottles, and man is this some good beer. Sweet now, but should mellow out in the bottle over time. A review will follow in the next blog post.

The two contract beers, from the First Parish Bridgewater Goods and Services Auction have each been started. First, Reverend Ed’s holiday beer, a Chocolate Raspberry Porter, was transferred to secondary this afternoon. It’s your standard Robust Porter, with 8 ounces of Baker’s Chocolate in the boil, not to mention the vanilla bean and 3 pounds (3 POUNDS!!!) of raspberries. It’s on the right track to be ready by the first or second week in November. Second, guest brewer Jan Thompson stopped by the brewery today to put together her Sierra Nevada Pale Ale clone. The brew day went perfectly, and her beer should be ready for bottling in a week.

There is still some FTB Summer seasonal left, Amarillo Wheat was an enormous hit over the summer, and there’s less than 12 left. The Kolsch is still going strong, and is still a good option on those random 75 degree fall days, when you’ve spent all afternoon raking leaves.

Finally, FTB is now on Twitter! Whatever that means! Follow @FTBrew (that’s how you write that, correct? Obviously we are still VERY new to this!) for all your FTB updates!

LOOOOOOONG Overdue Post…

So the Forest Trail Brewery crew spent a weekend in the Big City in mid-June to attend the American Craft Beer Fest.

No, we weren’t there as brewers (maybe in a few years!), but we did volunteer for a session (Friday night) with Ben and Beth of Ben, Beth, and Beer, as well as attend the first session on Saturday with Beck and Tony (of Beck and Tony’s Beer Tasting Party, where I(2) won Best of Show).

Matt spent the first half of Friday night applying wristbands to happy entrants, and Lauren filled water buckets and emptied dump buckets (Advantage: Matt). Once the crowd had been let in, Matt reported to his next section, on the floor, where he was put on “Quality Control Detail”.

His response: “Huh?”

It was then explained to him that his new job was to wander around the fest, tasting beers, and compiling a list of the best beers available. After a few incredulous back and forths of: “Really?” “Really.” And “Are you serious?” “Uh huh.” Matt went on his way. Being a volunteer he was allowed to cut to the front of the lines, but had to bring his full tasting glass behind the curtains before partaking. In the process, he met up with Lauren, and being the chivalrous gentleman he is, helped out with the water and dump buckets, in between the rigors of his task.

After the Friday night session ended, the FTB crew and the BB&B crew stayed for clean up, where they (along with the rest of the clean-up crew) were treated to a special tasting on Uintas beers as thanks for a great first day. Matt an Lauren retired to the hotel across the street to rest up for a fun filled Saturday with Beck and Tony.

Saturday morning came, and some old friends of Matt’s from his hometown (Taunton, MA) were up for breakfast. After a quick jaunt to Luckies’, Matt and Lauren met up with Beck and Tony, who joined the Taunton crew (including, but not limited to: Ian, Jill, Raymond, Jay, Chris, and Trevor) for a giant breakfast party.

We walked off breakfast, and headed to the festival. Saturday was as busy as Friday had been, but this time we were customers, and lines seem longer when you’re not allowed to cut to the front! After the festival, Matt and Lauren headed to meet up with a couple of guys Matt met through Beer Advocate, to trade  (and taste!) some beer. Matt brought boxes of delicious Massachusetts beers (Mayflower, Berkshire, Pretty Things) and some other East Coast treats (Dogfish head and Ommegang) and was rewarded with tastes of spectacular California based Russian Rivers beers, as well as some to bring home.

All in all, Matt tallied 78 new beers tasted between volunteering and attending sessions. Matt was very satisfied with his experience, finding most beers great, a few stand-outs, and only one worthy of not swallowing. Matt’s standout beers include: Atwater Block Brewery’s Vanilla Java Porter, Ommegang’s Ommegeddon, Gardener Ale House’s Face Off DIPA, Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout, Harpoon Brewery’s Summer Beer (casked with candied ginger), Ithaca Beer Company’s Apricot Wheat and Flower Power IPA, Martha’s Exchange’s Velvet Elvis, Peak Organic Brewing Company’s King Crimson and Expresso Amber Ale, Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project’s Babayaga, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s Hellraiser, Smuttynose Brewing Company’s Rouge d’Shire, Southern Tier Brewing Company’s Mokah, The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery’s Milk Stout and The End of Reason, and Uinta Brewing Company’s Cockeyed Cooper and Labyrinth. Matt was surprised by Narragansett Brewing Company. He had never had a ‘gansett, and was pretty happy with the lager as a whole, despite it being an adjunct lager. In fact, this has become his “easy beer”, the beer he drinks when his choices are Bud, ‘Gansett, and Heineken.

All told, it was a great experience, one Matt is following up with by attending the Night of the Funk, the first night of the Belgian Beer Festival, in November. The NoF features Belgian style Lambics, Flanders Browns, Flemish Reds, and Sour beers, not everyone’s cup of… well, beer, but Matt is excited for another night out with the BB&B crew.

Also on tap for Forest Trail Brewery is the planning for the first ever FTB Stout Fest, which will happen some time in October. Matt is currently compiling all different types of stouts for tasting, as well as preparing the return of FTB’s Dry Irish Stout, and a surprise FTB Original.

Speaking of FTB originals, the 5th Anniversary Ale is making it’s way to your glasses soon. Forest Trail Brewery’s 5th Anniversary Ale is an Imperial Brown (the A-Z Brown Ale that Lauren is so fond of) that is being aged “in bourbon barrels”. Actually, Matt made one batch, that has been sitting on chips for a few weeks, and that has been joined by a second batch that has been poured over another pile of oak chips that have been soaking in Woodford Reserve Bourbon for 3 weeks. Matt plans on bottling this brew in 2-2 ½ weeks. It will be available at the brewery in 12 oz bottles, and there will be a special reserve of the 5th Anniversary Ale available in 750 ml bottles for special occasions.

Good Beer + Good Beer Loving Friends = Good Times!

by Lauren

We’ve had a few non-FTB beer related adventures over the past…oh…3 months?

Here’s a quick chronological recap.

Back in April Matt volunteered at the Beer Summit.  He can elaborate on that later if he wants.

Later that same day (after dinner at Jacob Wirth’s…nice beer selection there!) we went to a beer tasting at our friends Beck & Tony’s house.   Everyone invited had to bring a 6-pack or a growler of something they’d either never had before or made themselves (Of course, we brought some FTB…More on that later).  Then at the end of the night you chose a few bottles from the unopened stash and brought them home in your fun six pack holder!

We brought some I2;.  Others included Innis & Gunn (an old favorite of mine…I chugged one once in an alley near the Cask N Flagon before hitting the Sox game.  I certainly wasn’t throwing it out and they weren’t going to let me bring it into Fenway! Blame Matt and Mike Long for that one), Ed Hardy (did you know Ed Hardy made beer too? ) and Brooklyn’s Black Chocolate Stout.

There were prizes for the people who brought the beer from furthest away and the best overall beer (any others? I don’t remember!).   Matt’s sure it was just because he was standing right there, but we took home the prize for best overall beer!  Nice job, I2!  (Take that, National Homebrew Competition!)

We had so much fun! We got to drink some new beers, meet some new people (and see some not as new people!), eat some fun snacks, and bring home some fun beer goblets! Thanks for having us, Beck and Tony!

Also related to Beck & Tony’s beer tasting, our friends Ben and Beth managed to sneak a bottle of I2 home with them that night.  Click on the link to see what Ben had to say about it (and about many many other beers!)

May 17-23 was American Craft Beer Week.  We hemmed and hawed over how to celebrate and where.  We decided to forgo the possible shit-show of taking Abby to the Portsmouth Brewing Company for lunch and met up with some friends at the much more local Mayflower Brewinginstead.

It was a relatively small event.  They had a tent set up in the parking lot out back with some food from the  Cabby Shack and a band was playing inside.  Your admission got you food and several drink tickets.   We’d already tasted most of Mayflower’s offerings, so we knew the beer would be good!   I was excited to try their summer seasonal, Summer Rye (It was good!  Definitely better than this year’s Sam Summer…and if my husband was looking for a fun way to surprise me he’d bring me home my own growler-full next time he got the chance).

I’ll save the American Craft Beer Fest for it’s own post.  That one could get long!  Matt should have an update on the Amarillo Wheat and the Kolsch soon too!

Late in adding this:  Shout-out to Beck, who took all but one of the photos included in this post!

Insert Witty Title Here.

Sorry for the delay in updating. The Forest Trail Brewery staff has been very busy preparing this year’s (ultimately late, but better late than never) summer brews: Amarillo Wheat, an American style wheat, dry-hopped with Amarillo Hops, and a yet to be named Kolsch style ale.

In our last episode we discussed the St. Patty’s Day fiesta, as well as the process involved in shipping I2 to the National Homebrew Competition New England Regionals in Philadelphia. We knew we didn’t place first, second, or third in our bracket, as the names of those beers were up on the American Homebrewer’s Association website about five days before we got our official letter. Once we got our letter we discovered we nailed a combined score of 22, with the two judges scoring us 18 and 22, respectively. The 18 was, to our chagrin, the lowest score in the New England Regional. However, we didn’t enter to win, we entered for the feedback.

Turns out the bottle we sent had caught a cold. Out of 48 bottles, two were either not sanitized fully, or caught something in the transfer. Either way, Matt drank one, and found it nearly undrinkable, not like the others we had consumed in the process, and the other was sent to Philadelphia. So with that in mind: both judges found the flavor and aroma off, citing an onion or garlic aroma and taste, which made it difficult to get through. That aside, the beer scored highly in mouth-feel, color, and body, which explains how, despite tasting awful and smelling nearly as bad, we still managed to score fairly respectively. Aside from that, both judges commented on the lack of the hop bite, which we at FTB called “balance.” The judges (who are correct, it was supposed to be an Imperial IPA) found the beer off style.

We haven’t been dissuaded, though. This was the first beer Matt brewed that he felt was truly a breakthrough. So we’ll go back to it. I2 Part II will appear sometime over the winter, with a refined recipe.

Up next for Forest Trail Brewery, aside from the summer seasonals, which will hit the conditioning shelf this weekend, are two “contract brews” bought at the First Parish Bridgewater Goods and Services Auction. Matt put “A Day of Brewing” up to auction, and when it sold for $125, we had to offer a second day!  Our first guest brewer is Jan Thompson, who has decided upon a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale clone, the brewing date is still to be determined. The second auction winner was Rev. Ed Hardy, who is leaning towards a holiday beer to be given as gifts to friends and family.  Both will come to FTB, assist in the entire brewing process, including clean up (that’s the most important part!!) and get to keep the two cases they make.

Stay tuned for another post about our recent beer adventures out and about!

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